Driver Fatality Leads to Ford Airbag Recall

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2015 was a record year for vehicle recalls, led by recalls for airbags manufactured by Takata, and 2016 seems to be starting out as a continuation of that trend, with Ford’s announcement yesterday that it has issued a voluntary recall of around 391,000 Ranger pickups from model years 2004 through 2006 because the driver’s side airbags are equipped with inflators that can explode and cause serious injury.

This particular announcement comes several days after a report that a driver in South Carolina, 52-year-old Joel Knight, was killed when flying shrapnel from one of these inflators hit his neck after his 2006 Ranger pickup hit a cow on the road and then struck a fence. Knight is officially the tenth person killed by an inflator from a Takata airbag. In addition, more than 100 serious injuries have been reported. Based on the results of an investigation, if it wasn’t for the rupture of the inflator, the damage caused by the accident would have been relatively moderate and Knight would still be alive.

The parade of Takata airbag recalls is expected to continue for a while. According to the NHTSA, the number of recalls this year alone could add more than 5 million vehicles to the 24 million that have already been recalled. Some of the recalls will be due to Knight’s accident, but many others will be due to failures of the inflators during lab tests, which are mounting.

Takata airbags use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that in turn results in a gas that inflates airbags when there is a crash. Unfortunately, when it is exposed to high heat and humidity, the ammonium nitrate can deteriorate over time, which causes it to burn much too fast, thus blowing apart the metal canister that was ostensibly designed to contain the explosion.

This is actually Ford’s second such recall for this problem; last year, the company recalled Rangers to replace passenger-side airbag inflators. According to the recall announcement, Ford will send letters to Ranger owners starting the week of Feb. 22, with full instructions regarding the recall. The process may be a bit slow, however; while they have some replacement parts available, Ford is working with air bag makers to make additional inflators available as soon as possible.

If you receive a recall notice, please follow the instructions exactly and get your vehicle repaired as soon as possible. Devices that are included with vehicles for safety purposes should not result in a greater risk of death. If you have a Ford Ranger from model years 2004-2006 and you don’t receive a notice, you can also go to the Ford website, click on “safety recalls” and enter your vehicle identification number to find out if your vehicle is included.

And if you or someone you love has been injured or killed by an airbag or any other defective safety device on a vehicle, please contact the Hill Law Firm today and let us put our experience and skill to work for you, to help you protect your rights under the law.

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